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Tuesday, November 28

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Cubs Fri Jan 07 2011

Cubs Go All In For Matt Garza

Thumbnail image for cubs.gifThree years ago it was Brian Roberts. Two years ago, Jake Peavy. The Cubs under Jim Hendry have made the near-trade an offseason specialty. But it looks like the rumors are true this time: Multiple outlets are reporting the Cubs have agreed with the Tampa Bay Rays on a deal that would send 27-year-old right-hander Matt Garza and a prospect to Chicago for five prospects, including two standouts in shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and pitcher Chris Archer.

Garza, who was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 204.2 innings last season, gives the Cubs another front-of-the-rotation starter to go with Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano. He helped the Rays win the American League in 2008 and the AL East last season, when he also threw the first no-hitter in franchise history.

Adding Garza doesn't make the Cubs instant pennant contenders, but it puts them in a good position.

garza.jpgWithout him, the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 spots in the starting rotation were in question. Now Randy Wells becomes the fourth starter, leaving Carlos Silva, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Samardzija, Casey Coleman and Tom Gorzelanny to fight for the fifth spot in the rotation. All are decent options to fill the last spot, though Gorzelanny might have a leg up as the only lefty candidate.

Garza has the power stuff to make an immediate impact, and his success in the AL East the past three seasons is a testament to his ability to pitch in pressure situations against tough opponents.

It will be interesting, though, to see how he pitches in front of the diehard Cubs fans, a 180-degree difference from the often-apathetic Tampa Bay fan base. If there is any doubt that Garza can handle the pressures of playing in a big market, I think his experience pitching against the Yankees and Red Sox teams should dispel that.

The NL Central has its share of stiff competition -- guys like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and reigning league MVP Joey Votto, just to name a few -- Garza should fare very well on the North Side. He could easily rack up 16-18 wins this season and his ERA should drop correspondingly with the shift to the pitcher's league.

And when the Cubs face the Yankees and Red Sox this year in interleague play, Garza will be right at home.

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